typical display, this one featuring bench, plaque and palmIf you're in Eureka Springs anyway, along with the other Christian inspirational attractions like the New Holy Land, Thorncrown Chapel, Christ of the Ozarks, Saint Elizabeth's Chapel and all, you might as well stop by Covenant Gardens, which bills itself as an educational exhibit featuring the flora mentioned in the Bible. As long as you're not a botannical hard case you'll feel like your time has been reasonably well spent. Be advised, though, that the Arkansas climate has necessitated some compromises in the business model.

You're not going to see an olive tree, for example; and the acacia, the wood used to build the ark of the covenant, is represented by the mimosa, its near relative which grows pretty well here. Generic terms get illustrated by local varieties. Cattails represent reeds and blackberries grow next to a crown of thorns.

You'll also see a packet of Red Star yeast representing the smallest plant mentioned in the Bible, since yeast is technically a fungus and therefore a plant. Well, technically that ain't right. Biologists will tell you that yeast is a fungus and therefore not a plant and not an animal. Of course these are the same brainwashed secular humanist scientists who'll try to tell you that the universe is more than six thousand years old.

Now that I've fed you the bad news, here's some good. It's got a cool, quiet, thoughtful atmosphere with trickling pools, comfortable benches and piped-in inspirational roots music. And I don't want to wrap up this article without mentioning that most of the exhibits show the actual items listed in scripture: stuff like papyrus, basil, mustard seed and palms. Each exhibit is fronted by a plaque in the shape of a bible opened to an appropriate page with the appropriate text highlighted.

It's easy to forgive the handful of loose interpretations when one considers that the price of admission is left to the visitor's conscience. There's a donation box at the gate a few yards from a flushing comfort station.

Covenant Gardens Miracle RockChristian attractions like to have miracles on hand and we got us one here. One stone in the altar in the outdoor chapel looks like both or either a fish swimming to the left and a lamb lying down with his head to the right. The fish and the lamb are the two chief Christian symbols after the cross itself. Not to spoil the surprise or detract from the mystery, but here's a picture of that rock. Looks plain as day to me. Of course the clean, tidy flushing comfort station was the miracle I appreciated most on the day of my visit.

To find Covenant Gardens, look for the sign along highway 62 east of town behind the cemetery. Phone 479-253-2248. Open daily mid May through mid October.

P.S. Sorry about the poor quality of the photos. My real camera was in the shop and I used a digital one for this story.


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